Gut health has been a major discussion on TikTok and in the media. With over 72% of Americans dealing with GI issues, this makes complete sense.
For centuries Yogis have emphasized the importance of gut health for optimal living. Your gut not only contains the vital organs which allow for the efficient processing of food and nutrients, but it’s also a storehouse for your emotions and trauma, it’s a center for your “gut feelings” aka your intuition, and if not properly cared for, can seriously impact your mood, attitude, and physical vitality.
Because Yogis have always been aware of the connection between the gut and everything else (the 3rd and 6th Chakras), there are Yogic practices, such as asana, pranayama, and meditation which are geared towards optimal gut health. Below are 5 asana poses that support a healthy gut.
Big Toe Pose II (padangustasana)
Benefits: This posture is geared towards regulating the kidney meridian. The kidneys are a vital organ for containing and filtering blood, and when regulated properly contribute to our overall energy levels.
Tips: This could be done standing on the floor or in a supine position. If done in a supine position, place a blanket, bolster, or block beneath the lifted leg to support the lengthening of the inner leg from the inner arch of the foot to the inner knee, to the inner groin. Your inhales and exhales should be sent toward the location of your kidneys in the lower back region just below the diaphragm.
Supported Headstand (Salamba Sirsasana A)
Benefits: Gravity likes to pull things down towards the center of the earth, our organs included. In Yoga, we seek to lift things up so that lightness can be achieved leading to a sense of freedom and flow. Inversions, such as headstands, provide an anti-gravity effect on one’s organs and surrounding tissues providing physiological support and benefits for one’s visceral organs.
Full Wheel (Urdhva Dhanurasana)
Benefits: Deep backbends help to lengthen the tissues and muscles which surround the gut. In order to do practices specifically geared towards the yoking of the gut (like uddiyana bandha or kapalabhati breathing), it is helpful to stretch the walls of the abdominal region that house the internal organs. When done properly, the full wheel creates space in the torso for said organs to move around and slide along one another (this movement of the organs is known as motility).
Benefits: Similar to backbends, twists can contribute to yoking the organs of the gut to achieve an optimal state of motility. Proper gut health also aids in the efficient absorption and digestion of food and nutrients.
Tips: Just be aware when you are twisting to twist towards the right first followed by the left as this follows the direction of digestion through your intestines. The photo above is a twist towards the left. Always think about which way your belly is turning, not where your knees are going.
Benefits: Once the organs have space to move around, doing the opposite…compressing or squeezing the organs (in an intentional manner) and then letting them go has positive effects in allowing optimal circulation through the gut. It’s like cleansing and purifying processes through the churning of the visceral organs.
Tips: Variations specifically geared towards compressing the viscera include knees together and/or placing your fists or rolled blanket into the front of the abdomen just below the navel. Deep breathing sent into the abdomen and lower back should accompany this practice.
Lindsay’s friendly reminder: Keep in mind, the poses above should be done consistently in practice, not just when you are experiencing gut distress. Actually, some may be very uncomfortable if done during a time you have GI discomfort thereby negating the ability of the pose to properly do its job. Another reminder, proper gut health isn’t only for those who experience gut distress, it really is for everyone on a regular basis.
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